Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan will have no shortages when it comes to his offseason to-do list. He must re-sign key restricted free agents such as Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson, and Marcus Johansson, and he’ll have to see which unrestricted free agents could be brought back; key among them 37-year old left-wing Jason Chimera.
It all depends on salary cap space, and depending on the asking prices of both the RFAs and UFAs, GMBM may not have a lot of room left come July 1, the first day of free agency. With a desire to add both speed and productivity to his bottom-six forwards, MacLellan’s logical solution would be to look at options within the organization if limited cap room prevents them from looking outside the organization. If Chimera departs, the Caps will need a third-line left-wing, and if they decide that Jay Beagle is better suited for a fourth-line role, then they will also be looking for a third-line pivot.
If they want productivity and some speed, then Hershey Bears forward Chris Bourque could potentially be an option. Perhaps one of the best players in Bears history, Bourque is coming off of a 30-goal, 80-point season in which he was awarded the Les Cunningham Trophy as the American Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player. Drafted by the Capitals 33rd overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Bourque returned to the Capitals organization last summer on a two-year, two-way contract. While he never established himself in the NHL, he’s put together a possible AHL Hall of Fame caliber career with 200 goals, 377 assists, and 577 points in 576 regular season career games played. He’s been almost just as productive in the playoffs, scoring 29 goals and adding 78 assists for 107 points in 121 career playoff games.
He’s won three Calder Cup championships (all with the Bears) and is still only 30-years old. Last fall, he was among the final cuts from Training Camp and deserves a chance to show if he can have an effect at the NHL level. Bourque is a left-wing, but is probably able to play both wing positions effectively. If Bourque could put up at least 25-30 points in a bottom-six role, he would help make the Caps’ bottom two lines more productive and faster. Even if they don’t see him as a long-term solution, Bourque deserves at least a chance to see if he can provide anything at the NHL level.
By Michael Fleetwood